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How to choose a surfboard

Whether you are learning to surf or have been surfing for a few years, it can be tricky to figure out how to choose a surfboard. Here at Otra Ola we wanted to educate you on how to choose a surfboard that is right for your level and style of surfing.

Oftentimes people make the mistake of downsizing too quickly with surfboards and aren’t able to catch waves and progress their surfing skills. When choosing a board, the more volume you have the easier it is to learn and catch waves. Shorter boards are designed for higher performance, but they are more difficult to paddle into a wave and pop up. When it comes to surfboards there are many different categories. We wanted to simplify it and educate you on how to choose a surfboard that will suit your needs in the ocean.


If it’s your first time surfing or you are a beginner, the board for you is a foamie. Rent a foam surfboard or take a lesson from a local surf shop and you will be able to catch waves easily. Foamies are usually 8-9 feet in length, wide and have a lot of volume to float on the water. The foam material on the board makes it a safer option as you learn how to handle the board so you don’t hurt yourself or others. Using a foamie as a beginner will help you progress faster than using a hardtop or a mid length. Learn the basics on a soft board with high volume and learn how to turtle roll with ease.


If you are feeling confident on a foamie and want to try out a hardtop longboard, this is the next best option. A longboard will help you have more stability on the waves, but turn easier than a foamie. Longboards are typically 9+ feet in length and are best for smaller waves that are more mushy and have less energy. Longboarding is a great option for beginners, intermediates and advanced surfers. Classical longboarding is a gentle style of surfing that can look like a form of art when you watch the professionals. Many advanced longboarders walk around on their surfboards in a flow-like state. They move around on their boards along different parts of the wave as if they are dancing.

Mid Lengths

Mid length boards are the next step down from a longboard if you are looking to transition to a shorter board. Usually 6-8 feet in length and designed to keep stability but add more performance, they help you catch steeper waves and turn with more ease. Oftentimes you still need to turtle roll, but if you have a small enough board you can begin to learn the motions of how to duck dive. These stable, but slightly shorter boards can catch smaller waves, but can also be used in bigger waves for intermediate surfers. Figuring out how to choose a surfboard can be challenging at times, but you can’t go wrong with a mid length if you are at the step where you can ride down the face of a wave consistently.

Fun Board

Fun Boards, often called “grovelers” are a bridge between longboarding and short boarding. Typically 5-7 feet in length with a wider nose and a good amount of volume, this is the next step down to take after you’ve mastered a mid length. This is the ultimate utility board that is designed for stability in smaller surf, but can help push your limits. These boards are often used for transitioning into a performance style of surfing. You can start to learn how to duck dive if your board has low volume, make more turns and learn top to bottom surfing. Designed to be a more forgiving board, three of the classic fun board styles are a fish, egg shape and a pintail.

  • Fish: Fish style surfboards are a retro style board with high volume in the nose, but shorter in length and wider in width. They are designed for stability and act as a shorter board that can catch smaller waves. They have a skatey style when it comes to turns and are generally flat with little to no rocker.

  • Egg: Eggs are high in volume, generally shorter but have a wide nose and a wide tail. This is the ultimate groveler for catching smaller waves and is a great transitional board once you graduate from a mid length. They catch waves a bit more easily than a fish and are generally pretty flat with a small amount of rocker.

  • Pintail: Pintail surfboards are designed for stability in bigger surf. They have significantly more rocker and a narrow nose and tail for performance. They typically have a bit less volume and the narrow tail is used to hold your position on the wave at higher speeds on a steep face.

Performance Board

A performance surfboard is used by more advanced surfers who have mastered how to duck dive and are generally 5-6 feet in length. They have an aggressive nose and tail rocker, are low in volume and have less paddle power and stability. The widest part of the board is in the center with a streamlined design made for high speeds and quick maneuvers in the pocket of the wave. Performance boards are made for beating sections on fast hollow waves. A performance board is for you if you are interested in doing tricks, making aerial maneuvers and getting barrelled.

Big Wave Gun

A Big Wave Gun is a board specifically used for big wave surfing by advanced and expert surfers. Guns are long, narrow boards designed for big paddle outs or tow-ins from a jet ski. They are the style of board people use to surf waves such as Jaws in Hawaii or Nazare in Portugal. These boards are built for speed, choppy faces and stability. Surfing a Gun is usually sought after by adrenaline junkies looking for a thrill.


Style is something to consider while figuring out how to choose a surfboard. There are many different ways of riding a surfboard and different types of waves you can surf. When choosing a board, focus on the type of wave you want to ride and what style of surfing you like. An advanced longboarder is a master of style and slower turns while an advanced short boarder is a master at quick turns, aggressive moves and airs. Short boarding and longboarding are often categorized as two completely different sports. Take some time to think about what you are looking for, talk to some professionals and resource this blog for some tips on what board is right for you.

Written by Lydia Schuldt


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